The Abandoned (2006): An American in Russian Doppelgäng-land


Director Nacho Cerdà (Aftermath,Genesis) co-wrote The Abandoned with Karim Hussain (AscensionThe Beautiful Beast) and Richard Stanley (Dust DevilThe Island of Dr. Moreau). The film is a British/Spanish production filmed on location in Bulgaria. A very international film indeed. Unfortunately the film doesn’t benefit from this international blending of talents (or location).

The film begins in 1966 Russia. A Russian family are setting around the dining table eating. They hear a noise that sounds like either thunder or an earthquake. A distant rumbling sound is getting nearer and they can tell that it is a truck. The truck pulls up in front of their house. The father takes a rifle down from the wall and approaches the truck.

Blood is dripping from the bottom of the driver’s door and he cautiously reaches out and opens the door. Inside the truck is a very dead, very bloody woman. In the passenger side of the truck in the footwell are two crying babies.

The film now jumps ahead forty years or to present day (well, present day in 2006). During the opening credits we see a jet flying and landing in Russia. The first time we see the ‘heroine’ of the film is in the airport. We first hear her when she is talking to her daughter Emily on the phone. This conversation escalates into an argument with Emily hanging up.

Our ‘heroine’ then takes a taxi to a building. As she is going up the steps to the building, a dishevelled blonde haired person walks into her. Annoyed she turns to say something and there is no one there. She goes into the building and meets a ministerial type person and finds that she has inherited a farm.

I could go on, but, the pacing of the film is so slow that you don’t get your first scare until twenty-eight minutes into the film.That is how long it takes for Marie Jones (Anastasia Hille) to reach the ‘scary’ farmhouse and see her ‘dead’ doppelgänger. When she meets her ‘dead self’ it is scary and she runs out of the house. Seeing the truck that brought her to the farmhouse leaving she runs after it. Bad move Marie. As it’s in the dark and by a river, she of course falls off a small precipice and ends up in the river. Dead before the first half hour of the film.

Fade to black.

Marie ‘wakes up’ in the house and meets Nicolai (Karel Roden) who explains that he is her brother. Together the two start exploring the house. Both Nicolai and Marie meet their dead doppelgänger’s. Nicolai makes the mistake of shooting his ‘dead’ self, only to find himself shot by his own bullet. Marie forgets this lesson of trying to harm the dead version of herself later in the film. She takes a plank of wood and smacks her double with it. She immediately reels back from the blow and falls down the stairs.

Marie and Nicolai find out through various means that forty years ago their father stabbed their mother and was going to feed them to the hogs. Mum before she died managed to shoot papa and rescue the babies. Putting them in the truck she drove away only to die in front of the peasant family house.

Marie and Nicolai both fight to get away from the farmhouse, but since daddy-dearest wants all his family to stay with him, they don’t have much choice. The film ends with Marie’s daughter Emily saying (in a voice over) that she knew she would never see her mother again and had no interest in following her and finding out what had happened to her. So much for ‘new world’ family ties.

I really could not get into this film at all. It was slow, plodding and hard to build interest in. The main character, Marie did nothing that made me care whether she lived, died, or got lost. Nicolai was even worse. He was so two dimensional I that I thought for ages that he was a ghost.

It was scary seeing the ‘dead’ Marie and Nicolai, the first time. Repeated viewings just got boring.

There was an attempt to do a ‘time cross-over’ device similar to Triangle (2009). And the writers of Triangle might have gotten the idea from this film, if so then Triangle pulled it off beautifully; not like The Abandoned. I don’t have a problem with slow paced films, if they are done well.

Guillermo del Toro‘s 2001 film The Devils Backbone is a slow paced film. Slow, melodic, haunting and mesmerizing. Everything that The Abandoned was not.

The Abandoned was slow, clunky, choppy and dragging. I was hard pressed to watch it to the end. When the film finally finished I felt a lot like Marie’s daughter Emily.

I didn’t care about Marie’s fate either.

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